War Games and Political Interests

As horrible as the pictures from Ukraine are, in the end everyone seems to think only of themselves

Israelis demonstrate against Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Israelis demonstrate against Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Photo: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

I was so glad that Corona had disappeared from the headlines and that we could finally get back to our normal everyday lives with all its problems. But I would much rather write about Corona statistics and complain about perhaps exaggerated measures against the Omicron variant than what we now much cover. The world has simply gone mad, it’s all about the Russian madness in Ukraine.

I’ve been in a bad mood since the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine. I can’t calm myself down. I followed developments throughout the weekend. I was shocked by the images I saw on the likes of Sky News, CNN, France24 and Fox News. I didn’t understand how the world could stand by and watch one sovereign state being invaded by another.

Here in Israel, too, it took some time to comment on the Russian aggression. But then they dared to condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Just before the invasion began, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid went so far as to say that if Israel had to choose, it would side with the Americans, that is, Ukraine. The Russians promptly invited the Israeli ambassador in Moscow, Alexander Ben Zvi, to an informative talk. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Mikhail Bogdanov wanted to know why Israel stands behind the “Nazis” in Ukraine.

The Israeli dilemma in this story is well known. Israel does not want to spoil things with Putin so that it can continue to take action against the Iranian threat in Syria. Russia has always tolerated the Israeli attacks in Syria. So can we allow ourselves to condemn Putin when we have the Russians practically on the northern border?

On Friday, the UN Security Council voted to condemn the Russian aggression. Israel was asked by the US to side with them against Russia. Actually, it goes without saying that Israel agrees with its most important friend, right? But Israel abstained. I was outraged at first. Immediately I thought of how Israel always complains when states professing to be friends of Israel abstain from voting on anti-Israel UN resolutions, thereby indirectly supporting the resolution against Israel. Now we can never again complain if friendly countries don’t side with us in such votes, I thought.

That was an emotionally driven reaction. And emotions have no place in politics. National interests are always at stake, no matter how sad that may be in this case. I also reflected on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s request to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to hold talks with Russia here in Israel. With an Israeli vote against Russia, Putin would certainly not be willing to hold talks here in Israel. But even so, I’m not sure whether negotiations between the two sides are realistic at the moment.

And one more thing: Ukraine has never sided with “us” in UN resolutions against Israel, but has always voted against us, or abstained. That, too, probably because of their own interests.

Israelis protest against Russia. Photo: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

The whole situation in Ukraine is terrible. And it seems even more cruel that our decisions are guided by local interests. It is easier for us citizens to take sides. Thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv yesterday to protest against Russia and Putin. Unfortunately, there is no place for emotions in politics.

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